Archive for the ‘Space News’ Category

Image credit: ESA/M.Pedoussaut

 

A commemorative plaque has been mounted on the European Space Agency’s Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer, or JUICE for short.

The plaque is a tribute to Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei who was the first to view Jupiter and its four largest moons through a telescope in January 1610.

Image credit: ESA/M.Pedoussaut

 

The plaque replicates several pages of Galileo’s Sidereus Nuncius in which he detailed his observations of the moons. They are printed on a piece of multi-layered insulation that makes up the thermal “blanket” wrapped around the spacecraft to keep its internal temperatures stable.

Image credit: Airbus

Image credit: ESA/ATG medialab (spacecraft); NASA/JPL/DLR (Jupiter, moons)

The spacecraft has just completed its final tests before departing Toulouse, France, headed for Europe’s Kourou spaceport and an April launch.

JUICE will reach Jupiter in July 2031 and complete a total of 35 flybys of the moons by November 2035. 

 

Curiosity’s location on Sol 3715. Distance driven to that Sol: 18.26 miles/29.39 kilometers.
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona

NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity took 28 images in Gale Crater using its mast-mounted Right Navigation Camera (Navcam) to create this mosaic. The seam-corrected mosaic provides a 360-degree cylindrical projection panorama of the Martian surface centered at 195 degrees azimuth (measured clockwise from north). Curiosity took the images on January 18, 2023, Sol 3715 at drive 1676, site number 99.
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

 

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover at Gale Crater is now performing Sol 3716 duties.

The robot recently executed a “short bump” (a drive) that placed the Mars machinery in front of a possible, next-up drill target, reports Elena Amador-French, A Science Operations Coordinator at NASA/JPL in Pasadena, California.

Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera image taken on Sol 3715, January 18, 2023.
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Before the science team commits to drilling the target “Encanto,” Amador-French adds, researchers will first investigate the chemistry and composition of the target using the Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS), the Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) instruments, and Mastcam (using their multispectral capability), to ensure that it is scientifically in-line with the rest of the “Marker Band.”

Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera image taken on Sol 3715, January 18, 2023.
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Additionally, a preload test which will provide a sense of the stability of the block is to be performed.

Curiosity Front Hazard Avoidance Camera Left B photo acquired on Sol 3715, January 18, 2023.
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

 

Charmed drill target

“El Encanto is a town and municipality in the Amazonas region of Colombia. Additionally one translation of the Spanish word ‘encanto’ is ‘charm’ – we indeed hope this drill target is charmed after we faced challenges with our last two drill attempts on the Marker Band,” Amador-French explains.

Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera image taken on Sol 3715, January 18, 2023.
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

In addition to Curiosity doing initial drill campaign activities, a 360 degree Mastcam mosaic is to be performed, along with the regular cadence of environmental monitoring activities.

Amador-French concludes: “Looking forward to seeing what this “Encanto” holds for us on Friday!”

Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera image taken on Sol 3715, January 18, 2023.
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

China’s Queqiao-1 relay satellite in need of replacement. Image credit: Radboud Radio Lab of the Radboud University, the Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy (ASTRON) and Innovative Solutions in Space (ISIS).

China’s Moon exploration program calls for launch next year of a new Queqiao-2 relay satellite.

That relay spacecraft is slated to provide key relay communication services for its future Chang’e lunar missions over the next decade, according to the China National Space Administration (CNSA).

According to China Central Television (CCTV), the design life of China’s current Queqiao relay satellite is set to expire. Its replacement is to serve phase-4 lunar probe missions: Chang’e-6, Chang’e-7, and Chang’e-8 missions. These Moon missions are to be carried out successively in the next 10 years.

Queqiao relay spacecraft is in a halo orbit around the second Lagrangian (L2) point of the Earth-Moon system, utilized to set up a communication link between the Earth and the Moon’s farside.
Credit: CNSA

Relay improvements

“We need to launch a relay satellite to support the work of Chang’e-6 as it will land on the far side of the Moon. So we will send Queqiao-2 at the beginning of 2024 to support the Chang’e-6 mission,” said Hu Hao, chief designer of the third phase of the China Lunar Exploration Project.

Queqiao-2 is to have a greater improvement in overall performance and capability compared to its predecessor, Hu added.

Chang’e-6 is expected to be hurled Moonward sometime within the next two years, tasked with returning to Earth select specimens from the lunar far side.

Phase-4 missions

“Chang’e-6 will land on the far side of the Moon, discovering and collecting lunar samples of different ages in different regions,” Wang Qiong, deputy chief designer of the upcoming Chang’e-6 mission told CCTV.

Credit: CNSA/CLEP

“The engineering goal of Chang’e-6 is to make breakthroughs in orbital design and control technology of the Moon’s retrograde orbit and intelligent sampling, take-off and ascent technologies on the dark side of the Moon, automatic sampling and return from the Moon’s far side, and carrying out effective international cooperation,” Wang said.

In November of last year, the CNSA released plans for the phase-4 lunar probe missions: the retrieval of lunar samples from the far side of the Moon by Chang’e-6, a detailed survey of the Moon’s south pole resources by the Chang’e-7, and the testing of key technologies in preparation for the construction of a proposed lunar research station during the Chang’e-8 mission.

Image credit: Roscosmos/NASA

 

Due to the compromised nature of Russia’s Soyuz MS-22, a seat liner from that craft has been transferred to the SpaceX Dragon Endurance spacecraft. Doing so provides lifeboat capabilities in the event NASA astronaut Francisco Rubio would need to return to Earth because of an emergency evacuation from the International Space Station.

Russian cosmonauts Dmitry Petelin, Sergei Prokopyev and NASA astronaut Francisco Rubio.
Image credit: Roscosmos

 

 

The change allows for increased crew protection by reducing the heat load inside the MS-22 spacecraft for cosmonauts Sergei Prokopiev and Dmitry Petelin in the event of an emergency return to Earth.

According to Russia’s Roscosmos, to maintain the alignment of the Soyuz MS-22 descent vehicle, a stack with loads was placed in Rubio’s chair.

Be seated…on a Soyuz.
Image credit: Roscosmos

 

Once the replacement vehicle – an uncrewed Soyuz MS-23 — arrives at the space station on Feb. 22, Rubio’s seat liner will be transferred to the new Soyuz and the seat liners for Prokopyev and Petelin will be moved from MS-22 to MS-23 ahead of their return in the Soyuz.

 

Image credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

Chinese scientists precisely confirmed the latest volcanic activity on the Moon took place about 2 billion years ago.

This confirmation is based on returned-to-Earth lunar samples, collected by China’s Chang’e-5 lunar probe in 2020.

For a China Central Television video, go to:

https://youtu.be/RQYNBSpUEe0

Image credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

Earth’s Moon as seen from the International Space Station.
Image credit: NASA

NASA’s Office of Inspector General has issued a report — NASA’s Partnerships with International Space Agencies for the Artemis Campaign – making several observations and recommendations.

The Office of Inspector General (OIG) report notes the interest in NASA’s back-to-the-Moon Artemis campaign by international space community. That is evidenced by NASA’s 54 Artemis-related international instruments and the 23 signatories to the Artemis Accords.

Image credit: NASA

“However, the Agency lacks an overarching strategy to coordinate Artemis contributions from international space agencies and entities. Except for the Gateway Program, the Artemis campaign does not have comprehensive forums – boards, panels, and working groups — for its international partners to routinely discuss topics such as flight and mission planning, safety, and research integration.”

 

Effectiveness and affordability

That said, the NASA OIG has recommended increasing the effectiveness and affordability of Artemis integration efforts with international partners, by these steps:

 

 

  • NASA senior leadership establish a coordination strategy with NASA’s international partners that includes recurring forums specifically for Artemis Accords signatories interested in participating in the Artemis campaign;
  • establish NASA-led Artemis campaign boards and working groups for partners with agreed-upon commitments and provide opportunities for liaison representation from international partner agencies;
  • issue a detailed strategy and architecture for missions beyond Artemis IV that considers potential international partner roles and responsibilities;
  • perform a detailed gap analysis and cost estimate for Artemis missions beyond Artemis IV that will help inform a cost-sharing strategy with international partners;
  • establish a full-time export control team dedicated to Artemis programs in support of space flight developments;
  • review export control requirements and consider additional roles for partner astronauts to increase their utilization in NASA space flight operations;
  • establish a fulltime export control team dedicated to the Artemis programs in support of space flight operations;
  • coordinate with other federal agencies to develop a unique Export Administration Regulations (EAR) classification for the Gateway program;
  • execute Artemis agreements with key international space agency partners to ensure partner roles and responsibilities are clearly understood and allow for efficient and timely partnerships in support of Artemis; and
  • develop an automated routing method for processing international agreements within NASA to increase timeliness.

To read the full report — NASA’s Partnerships with International Space Agencies for the Artemis Campaign – go to:

https://oig.nasa.gov/docs/IG-23-004.pdf

 

Curiosity Right B Navigation Camera photo taken on Sol 3711, January 14, 2023.
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover at Gale Crater is now performing Sol 3712 duties.

The robot is safe and sound, but a recent downlink glitch slowed down research plans, reports Kristen Bennett, a planetary geologist at the USGS Astrogeology Science Center in Flagstaff, Arizona.

Curiosity Right B Navigation Camera photo taken on Sol 3711, January 14, 2023.
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

“All we need to do is wait for the missing data and keep going! We have enough images to look at the terrain that is in the distance, but not enough to see what is in front of the rover right now,” Bennett notes. “This means we cannot do contact science or drive, but we can take in the view with plenty of long distance images in today’s plan.”

Curiosity Right B Navigation Camera photo taken on Sol 3711, January 14, 2023.
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Distant terrain

Several Mastcam mosaics are included in a recent two sol plan, drafted for Sols 3710-3711.

Curiosity Right B Navigation Camera photo taken on Sol 3711, January 14, 2023.
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

“First, Mastcam is characterizing some distant terrain at the base of Chenapau that we expect to drive to soon. There is also a Mastcam mosaic that covers Amapa from a different angle. The plan also includes the “Tupaquim” and “Uaiu” mosaics, which both target features that are exposed below the marker band. Tupaquim targets dark-toned bands, and Uaiu targets potentially wavy layers,” Bennett adds.

Curiosity Chemistry & Camera Remote Micro-Imager (RMI) photo acquired on Sol 3711, January 14, 2023.
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/LANL

Curiosity Chemistry & Camera Remote Micro-Imager (RMI) photo acquired on Sol 3711, January 14, 2023.
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/LANL

 

 

Two planned Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS) observations were to occur a little closer to the rover on targets “Iracoume” and “Moreiru.”

These targets are to characterize the closest bedrock that is visible in the images that were downlinked, Bennett notes. The plan also includes two long distance Remote Micro-Imager (RMI) observations: one on the flank of Chenapau and another on the marker band.

Curiosity Chemistry & Camera (ChemCam) RMI taken on Sol 3710, January 13, 2023.
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/LANL

Image credit: Roscosmos

Russia’s Roscosmos and NASA continue to work on ensuring the safety of the International Space Station crew due to the now-docked — but compromised — Soyuz MS-22 spacecraft.

That craft suffered a coolant leak in mid-December of last year. Due to a possible meteoroid strike, the vehicle’s radiator pipeline spewed its coolant out into space, putting to question the overall integrity of the craft to return crew members safely to Earth.

Coolant spraying instrument-assembly compartment of the Soyuz spacecraft.
Image credit: NASA

Earlier, Roscosmos and a special team of experts did decide that the crippled Soyuz should be brought back to Earth without a crew. Furthermore, the launch of an uncrewed Soyuz MS-23 to the ISS is being expedited, now slated for liftoff on February 20th.

Due to the situation with the Soyuz MS-22 spacecraft, Sergey Prokopiev, Dmitry Petelin and NASA’s Francisco Rubio will return to Earth on the fresh Soyuz MS-23. That craft is due to dock to the ISS in unpiloted mode on February 22.

Image credit: Roscosmos/NASA

Emergency evacuation

The ISS partner countries have taken measures to ensure the safe return of the station crew to Earth in the event of an accident before the arrival of a newly launched Soyuz MS-23 spacecraft.

While the systems of the ISS and the Soyuz MS-22 spacecraft are operating normally, according to Roscosmos, in the event of an accident, the crew will need an emergency evacuation to Earth before the Soyuz MS-23 arrives.

It has been decided to temporarily move the seat of Francisco Rubio from the Soyuz MS-22 to a SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft.


NASA astronaut and Expedition 68 Flight Engineer Frank Rubio is pictured inside the cupola of the ISS.
Image credit: NASA/Frank Rubio

That work will take place on January 17-18.

Return two cosmonauts

However, in the event of a crisis on the ISS, the compromised three-seater Soyuz MS-22 may be used to bring home two cosmonauts – sure to be a palm sweating event.

“If an emergency evacuation is necessary, Francisco Rubio will return to Earth on it, and Roscosmos cosmonauts on the Soyuz MS-22,” according to the official Telegram channel of the State Corporation Roscosmos. “The descent of two astronauts instead of three will be safer, as it will help reduce the temperature and humidity in the Soyuz MS-22.”

“After Soyuz MS-23 arrives on the ISS, the seats of all three cosmonauts, including Francisco Rubio, will be transferred to it,” the Telegram posting from Roscosmos explains.

Up and going: Tim Dodd, the “Everyday Astronaut”
Image credit: Everyday Astronaut

 

The “Everyday Astronaut” turns out to be a not so every day kind of person.

Talented Tim Dodd is the central spark plug behind the Internet-streamed show, dedicated to “bring space down to Earth for everyday people.”

I recently caught up with Dodd. Indeed, his future looks bright – particularly thanks to the glow of a SpaceX Starship lighting up and launching. He was selected to participate in a lunar spaceflight as part of the dearMoon project crew, one of the eight selected to take the journey in the near-future aboard a Starship.

Go to my exclusive interview with Dodd for Space.com – “Tim Dodd, the ‘Everyday Astronaut,’ gets down to Earth about SpaceX moon trip – ‘I like things that go fast … and nothing goes faster than a rocket'” – at:

https://www.space.com/tim-dodd-everyday-astronaut

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

 

NASA’s Ingenuity Mars helicopter continues to chalk up new stats at Jezero Crater, flying above the Red Planet on its 39th flight hop.

On this trek the micro-device flew on January 11, 2023, reaching 33 feet (10 meters) in altitude and flying roughly 456 ft (139 meters) northeast. Overall, the flight lasted around 79 seconds, returning to its takeoff spot.

The goal of the flight was to test new software.

The aerial device acquired images using its navigation camera mounted in the helicopter’s fuselage and pointed directly downward to track the ground during flight. Images were acquired on Jan. 11, 2023, the date of Ingenuity’s 39th flight.

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Meanwhile, the Perseverance rover’s Mastcam-Z camera imaged Ingenuity at the Flight 38 landing zone, sitting silently on the side of a sand ripple.

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech /ASU